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Happy holidays from Nassau County Sierra Group to Sierrans everywhere! We look forwards to seeing you in 2024.
Our mission is to enjoy and protect the natural places of Nassau County Florida, to teach others to understand and respect the fragile environment in which we live, and to practice and promote the responsible use of our local ecosystems and resources.
Landmark Tree on 8th and Atlantic saved. Letter of concern sent by Nassau Sierra Club, 3 other environmental groups and concerned citizens to City Leaders helped save it - Click here to read it
Keep up with outings and upcoming events on our new Meetup Page
See our summer newsletter
HELP! Our outreach and programs are growing and we need your help! We always need volunteers to help us in our mission to EXPLORE, ENJOY, and PROTECT the planet! ATTENTION! We currently are looking for volunteers in several areas. Check out the descriptions of volunteer positions available and help us out! Contact Julie Ferreira at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check our volunteer needs here
- Protecting our drinking water from PFAS pollution
- Egan's Creek Greenway Position Paper
- Sierra Club's Zero Waste Policy
- UPDATE - CRC Votes Down Proposed 40 Year Leasing of Conservation Land!
- CRC Proposes Leasing Conservation Land for 40 Years!
- Half of US Population Breathing Polluted Air
New Meetup group for Nassau Sierra
Nassau County Sierra is coming into the 21st century and is now on Meetup. Check us out! It's a good way to make new friends and connect with like-minded people who share your interests. Here's how:
Create an account. Log into your account. Go to the homepage for https://www.meetup.com/
We hope to see you soon for an outdoor adventure or indoor event!
Statement on proposed Rayonier's proposed Ethanol plant
As many of you have heard, a top priority for the Nassau County Sierra Group is opposing Rayonier’s proposal to build an ethanol plant on their property in the City. Ethanol, as renewable biofuel, is a good idea for America’s future however when being sited within the densely populated community of Fernandina Beach it is not a good idea for ‘our future’.
Typically, ethanol plants are located in rural communities on large pieces of property away from residences and dwellings to limit fire & safety problems, and limit complaints from residents.
There are many things about the manufacturing of cellulosic ethanol that will affect local residents. Please email the City Commissioners asking that they create a city meeting about this very serious issue.
If you'd like talking points on this, a few of the big points are:
- Fernandina residents have had no chance to participate in a public forum on a potential cellulosic ethanol plant being put in their backyard.
- The City Comprehensive Plan prohibits chemical processing and refining.
- The ethanol process is very dangerous when placed on the edge of a densely populated (within a quarter of a mile) of residential neighborhoods.
- Ethanol plants have a history of explosions. There have been five in the last 1-1/2 years across America.
- Ethanol production water use is extensive, 4-5 gallons for every gallon produced. According to Rayonier’s proposal they will produce 7.5 million gallons per year.
- Antibiotics are often used in the fermentation process. If 7.5 million + gallons of effluent are released into the Amelia River, it bodes poorly for our aquatic residents including fish, dolphins, manatees, crabs, sea turtles, sharks, otters, oysters and other animals that share our environment.
- Even utilizing state-of-the-art technology, controlling emissions may be problematic over time. FDEP has told Nassau Sierra that it will only require ‘one' air quality report from the processing plant when it goes on-line, not one every year that it’s in production.
- More trucks on an already failing road like 200 and 8th Street do no one in this community any good.
- Effects of light pollution are a problem.
- Ethanol plants generate noise. What site buffers will minimize this problem in a residential area?
- A corporation and it’s out of country owner (Bourregard and LignoTech) shouldn't have more of a say about what happens in our community than residents do.
Commissioners, it's for time for you to represent the best interests of the community, to be pro-active and not sell out to a production process that will potentially affect our health, our property values, and our aquatic environment!
City Commission email addresses:
Nassau County Sierra Group Executive Community
In early December, there was a proposed FL bill, HB 87- Taking of Bears.
This is a bill created by FL Rep. Shoaf as an approach to reduce negative human-bear encounters in the state of Florida. Despite strong pushback last Tuesday, the bill passed 14 to 4 in the Florida House Agriculture, Conservation, and Resiliency Subcommittee. Three Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Chaney, voted No.
HB 87 is not effectively written because it has no “circuit breaker” to control the proposed hunt. Many of us still have memories of the 2015 bear hunt that back-fired and resulted in killing more bears than was planned.
In 2015, 2600 permits were sold and the hunt was limited to only two days.
Unfortunately the result was that trophy hunters flooded Florida's woods. Many hunters were caught without licenses; others were caught baiting bears; 36 lactating mamas were slain which meant that an equal amount of cubs were abandoned and left behind uncared for; and then there were also babies that were shot.
The current bill, HB 87, has no “circuit breaker clause” to control the newly proposed hunt. This poses obvious threats to the current Florida black bear population.
There are also concerns about how the current bill is worded which allows the “feelings” of humans to justify killings. That will make it just about impossible to prove that a person did or did not feel threatened.
Therefore, there are no ways to prosecute wanton killings.
The Florida Sierra Club came out in force against the 2015 bear hunt and evidenced by the picture below. Time to activate again.
If 2015 was a free for all, imagine what this bill allow.
Please help us publicize HB 87 so that people will be prepared on short notice to leave voice mails or send emails that urge our legislators to vote NO on HB 87 especially if the current language is not seriously amended.
Florida needs to have science-based regulations based upon wildlife sustainability to create a sensible effective wildlife management program.
Reporting from Fernandina Beach, Florida where right whale calving season begins in mid-November and runs through mid-April.
Great news! 3 new North American right whale calves have been born in the past few weeks!
Also there have been reports that 18 right whales, including 14 potential moms have been identified on their way south to our winter birthing waters off the SE US coastline from Nova Scotia. With fewer than 70 reproductively active females, this is exciting news.
Congrats to this year's new mothers- Palmetto, Horton, and Juno!!!!
Palmetto is at least 35 years old, and this is her sixth documented calf. Her calves from 2005 (#3850) and 2020 (#5070), both male, have been seen in recent years.
Much like her previous calves, mama Horton has suffered from fishing gear entanglements. She had two previous calves in 2007 and 2010, but they are sadly presumed dead. Her 2007 calf was a male right whale #3791 named “Truffula.” He was unfortunately seen in poor condition in May 2016, emaciated and with injuries consistent with a fishing gear entanglement. He has not been seen since September 2016. Horton’s 2010 calf, #4090, was seen entangled in gillnet gear in September 2011 and was not seen again.
Juno is at least 38 years old and this is her eighth documented calf—her last known calf was born in 2020. Juno was first sighted in 1986 in the southeastern United States with a calf. Interestingly, nearly all of her sightings have been with a calf.
Each fall, some right whales travel more than 1,000 miles from their feeding areas in the waters off New England and Canada to the shallow, coastal waters of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and northeastern Florida. The southeastern United States is the only known area where right whales regularly give birth and nurse their young.
Get into the spirit of wonder by watching “Spindle” and her calf… https://youtu.be/7rNLXb514sw
Protecting our drinking water from PFAS pollution
The EPA has recently announced its first ever legal limits for PFAS in drinking water, but much more remains to be done. Millions of Americans are exposed to dangerous amounts of PFAS chemicals in their water, food or by consumer products. PFAS are uniquely harmful and persistent contaminants that cause cancer, organ damage, immune system suppression and harm children’s development. When finalized, the new rules will improve water quality for millions of Americans.
This is an issue that the Nassau County Sierra Club has just begun to discuss.
Here is an image depicting how PFAS get into our water
We are posting a link to access a video recording of a recent Sierra Club WEBINAR on PFAS pollution. Hear from Linda Birnbaum, one of the nation's leading toxicology researchers about the story of PFAS contamination, and what needs to be done to protect people and the planet from these dangerous chemicals.
This video recording can be accessed at any time. View at your own convenience. See link below.
Link to the webinar video recording:
Protecting our drinking water from PFAS pollution - Zoom
Webinar Speakers include:
Linda Birnbaum, retired EPA and NIH leader
Sonya Lunder, Sierra Club Senior Toxics Policy Advisor
Representatives from Sierra Club Hawaii, Sierra Club Michigan, Grassroots PFAS team, and Water Sentinels
Related articles and resources on PFAS pollution:
Interactive Map: PFAS Contamination Crisis: New Data Show 2,858 Sites in 50 States (ewg.org)
Egans Creek Greenway Position Paper
We used to speak of Egans Creek Greenway in Fernandina as being a "preserve". But what is a preserve?
In the Greenways' case, it's a Conservation/wildlife refuge/nature reserve. In other words, it's a protected area of importance for flora and fauna which is reserved and managed for purposes of 'conservation' which can be defined as the planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.
Seemingly, conservation area or preserve is an idea that no longer is respected or honored in Fernandina Beach. We used to protect and honor the wildlife that we shared this island with but in respect to the Greenway- now gone are the bobcats, less frequent are the otters, and on their way to being gone is the ability to see wading birds — the herons, ibis, egrets, and the endangered American Wood Stork.
We've become the other Florida, only we're on an island. An island that sports excrescent growth like mold on an orange with sprawl, increasing traffic, trees and natural fauna disappearing, buildings being built, and an ever-burgeoning population. A recent article on the frontpage of the Fernandina Beach Newsleader stated that Nassau County's population would increase 73% over the next 20 years. Did anybody notice that??? 73%!!!
At one time Fernandina Beach could be touted as being in the forefront for our foresight and outlook. The creation of Egans Creek Greenway was a far-sighted program to protect a large swath of land from development. It also helped to provide a network of connected habitats stretching from the south of the island north to Fort Clinch and these connected habitats were a wildlife corridor. Florida black bears have even frequented the hallowed connected hallways we preserved as they migrated from Talbot Island and further south on their way to swim across the river to Georgia.
I think there are few who live in the city that would argue that now is a critical moment in Fernandina for natural habitat- especially for our many unique, and in some cases endangered, plants and animals.
Ever see a Wood Stork on the Greenway? They breed solely in Florida and Georgia. If you see them, they're big. They stand 3-1/2 ft tall, weigh about 8 pounds with a wingspan up to 5 feet. They hold an “endangered/threatened” classification meaning that there is a concern that this species could become extinct if negative impacts continue. Their population decline has been the result of loss and alteration of the wetland feeding habitats they need to survive.
Wood Storks have a specialized style of feeding, relying on touch. They feed on small sized marsh fish, shrimp, amphibians (tadpoles), and small reptiles (snakes) by slowly wading through the water with open bills. When the bird's bill touches a fish, it quickly snaps it shut to secure the meal. The habitats that these birds require for nesting, feeding, and roosting are- according to federal regulations- to be protected throughout the year. One would then think that the Greenway and its habitat of lowland wetlands which our neighbors, the Wood Storks, require for feeding should be 'protected'.
The Wood Storks' other Greenway neighbors, the herons and egrets, are daylight foragers because they are visual feeders. They must be able to see their prey before they spear it or grab it with their sharp bills hence, they are restricted to feeding during the day and being able to forage on the edges of wetlands. All of these wading birds are susceptible to disturbances like loud noises and an increase in human activity. If we want wildlife and birdlife in our midst leaving the wetland areas they inhabit alone, or as alone as possible, is the best policy.
However, is that what our new policy of allowing e-bikes on the Greenway going up to 10 mph will do? Disturbances will have an effect, but it seems we in Fernandina make continued community decisions ensuring that we will live in an environment devoid of life other than that of humans and domesticated animals.
The Nassau County Sierra Club opposes e-bikes on the Greenway because police won't be able to stop people using the bikes irresponsibly and enough conflict exists on the trails between cyclists and pedestrians without adding another set of travelers. It's one of the few places where you can just be a human, if you throw in electric motors or electric assist motors, it changes the whole dynamic.
It's understood that e-bikes are the next new thing and the market for them is growing. That means that we can all rest assured that their use will not be limited to the old and infirmed. Due to our population growth in the City and County more and more people are seeking recreation. For the Greenway this means that more and more people will be in competition with wildlife. Is this what we want?
By the way, the Parks and Recreation Department keeps a golf cart for any infirmed person who wants to visit the Greenway. Kathy Russell is willing to give tours and take people out so there is no valid argument that people who can't walk far or pedal a normal bicycle are prohibited from enjoying the Greenway. The City made equal access provisions long ago.
Humans are the greatest single factor in the loss of species. The ever-increasing pressure on our local ecosystems and their life-supporting services is great and serious. Ask yourself, what is our place in the universe? Are we protectors or invaders?
Julie Ferreira, Nassau County Sierra Group Chairperson
Sierra Club's Zero Waste Policy
Also please take a moment and sign our STOP USING PLASTIC BAGS, PUBLIX petition. The campaign is approaching 11,000 digital signatures and we are picking up speed. Help us move towards the goal of 20,000 signatures. Feel free to share with all!
It’s up to us to protect our children and grandchildren!
CRC Votes Down 40 Year Lease of Conservation Land
Watching the ebbs and flows of politics is always interesting. The next challenge will be gaining the firm support for the new Charter language by the City Commission which then will move it to public referendum in November. Thankfully this first stage of the battle was successful and citizens voices were heard.
The Fernandina Charter Review Committee voted on 5/05/20 (almost unanimously) to prohibit the outright any sale or lease of city owned Conservation Land in perpetuity. This result would not have been possible without the mobilizing of citizen input.
It's a sign of hope that some of the most vigorous supporters of the leasing of Conservation Land became the most vocal supporters of the viewpoints of local conservation organizations and conservation minded citizens. Citizen input definitely made a huge difference in the outcome of this decision.
Here is the Nassau County Sierra Club's response to the Charter Review Committee:
Charter Review Board Proposes up to 40 Year Lease of Conservation Land!!
One of the provisions the Fernandina Charter Review Board has been considering is a provision prohibiting the sale or long-term leasing of City-owned conservation lands perhaps without a public referendum first.
At this point, the CRC has gone so far as to agree that any such sale or lease longer than 40 years of City-owned recreational or Conservation Land must receive unanimous consent of the City Commission and 70% approval by the voting public. The bad news is that City-owned conservation land could be leased for up to 40 years.
At the February 25th meeting the planning director, Kelly Gibson, told the CRC that she could think of many reasons that the City would want to enter into up to 40-year leases of City-owned conservation land, including partnerships with nonprofits to manage the land and for photography and sight-seeing businesses. She also said that without the right to lease the land, it might should be kept in an “abandoned state”.
Since when would keeping land in its "natural state' be a bad thing? Human sprawl has shrunk our wild lands. As a result, wildlife are struggling to find places to rear their young, feed, and find shelter.
The Nassau County Sierra Club believes that Conservation Land should not be leased. Leasing can open the way for irreparable damage to treed properties, even for a short-term lease.
Leased property could be impacted by the needs to create parking places, facilities, or other improvements. Plus, 40 years is way too long for a lease anyway. We believe there is some discussion to reduce the length of a lease to 15 or 20 years- agreeably this is better- but we stand by our initial opinion of the no lease option.
Please tell the Charter Review Committee your thoughts. Community input is important.
An email address has been set up for the Charter Review Committee: CRC2020@fbfl.org. Emails sent to this address will be received in the City Attorney’s office and promptly forwarded to all members of the Charter Review Committee. Please send emails before June 4th that will express your sentiments. Also, public comment is to be taken at the June 4th meeting at City Hall at 5:00.
If attending in person at City Hall, please arrive at City Hall no later than 4:50 PM to be counted and to complete a speaker form. You will be admitted into City Hall when it is your turn to make your public comments.
Please wear a face mask when entering City Hall for your protection and the protection of others.
Half of US Breathes Dirty Air
According to a new study by the American Lung Association, half of the US population is breathing dirty, polluted air. You can read a Sierra Club article on the study by clicking here
No More Plastic Bags, Publix
Sierra Club Florida has created a campaign to ask Publix to stop using single-use plastic bags at check out . Stop Using Plastic Bags, Publix aims to convince Publix supermarket chain to voluntarily stop distributing single-use plastics bags at checkout. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to use cotton or reusable bags for shopping.
TAKE ACTION NOW ...
Sign our petition to ask Publix Supermarkets to lead the way to stop using single-use plastic bags at the checkout. For more information on what you can do to stop the use of single-use plastics, contact email@example.com
2020 Right Whale Calving Season - Updates
During winter, we live in the midst of the right whale birthing habitat. So far this season, four babies have been born. These babies and all the right whale mothers visiting our area need protection.
Of the four babies sighted this birthing season, one is already in grave condition. This is extremely concerning. The calf's mouth is injured which could hamper its ability to nurse and feed. When first spotted the calf was only a few days old but already had injuries that were consistent with those from a boat propeller.
These gentle giants can be spotted with the naked eye or with a telescope. The sessions at the library will provide training on what to look for and what to do if one suspect’s a right whale sighting. Input from the public is crucial to prevent ship strikes and to help the experts collect data on these endangered animals and their patterns.
Julie Alpert from the Marine Resources Council of Palm Bay will graciously conduct our workshop. It is a two hour training session. Everyone is welcome.
Vessel strikes are one of the greatest human-caused threats to North Atlantic right whales. Whales can be killed if they are cut by propellers or from the force of being hit by any boat or shipping vessel. Your participation in this sighting program could make all the difference! Everyone's help is needed. Attendees will learn the signs to identify right whales and how to report there whereabouts.
Since Amelia Island is in the center of the winter calving grounds for these endangered whales, we need whale spotters which can relay the GPS location to a central phone number so an all points bulletin can be issued to harbor pilots, ship's captains, port authorities, and recreational boaters to avoid the whale's location and to slow down.
The protection of these animals is literally in the hands of us all. Please join us for this important training. In the meantime, we ask anyone with information regarding the calf's injuries and/or additional sightings to contact 1-877-WHALE-HELP (1-877-942-5343).
Help Save North Atlantic Right Whales- WE NEED YOU!
Click here for the Facebook item about the team that is trying to save a new calf struck by a vessal.
Other links to articles about the Right Whale calf spottings:
- Second calf spotted
- Third calf
- Mother Right Whale and injured calf
- NOAA article about Right Whale strikes
Meeting and Events
Join us as we enjoy, explore and protect the planet! Check out The Nassau County Sierra Group's Facebook Page for other environmental news and announcements.
*For more information, contact our meeting and event coordinator - Mary Libby (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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